Kobe Bryant, Lakers Walking Fine Line to Balance Old Skills with New Reality

LOS ANGELES — There's a new sweet spot out there somewhere, even if it's only coming together for now in a 36-year-old dreamer's imagination and not on the court. It's a little John Stockton passing, a little Michael Jordan in the post.

But it'll take a lot of Kobe Bryant's basketball savvy, if he can still muster it.

Because this is not easy for him.

Bryant is used to punching the clock for work every day and manning his station for whatever extended business hours it takes to meet customer demand.

Now he has been reduced to rest days and off hours that amazingly—per Byron Scott's inflexible, now-at-the-other-end-of-the-spectrum edict—will preclude Bryant from ever playing overtime again because it will push him beyond 32 minutes on any given night.

His lack of rhythm Tuesday in the Lakers' 78-75 loss to Miami after sitting out three of the Lakers' past four games was obvious: He tried to set up teammates for shots when the Heat trapped him with double-teams from the jump, but the Lakers missed 15 of their first 17 attempts. That meant Miami's defense wasn't forced to scale back its load on Bryant, who remained fenced on the outside, struggling for rhythm, as he shot 3-of-19 from the field in 31 minutes.

Bryant took only one shot in nine minutes and 32 seconds of play after halftime, then sat for the next nine minutes and five seconds. He returned with 5:03 left in the game and immediately missed a shot and threw a ball out of bounds.

"The hard part is sitting down for stretches and then trying to get back in," Bryant said. "I feel like the Tin Man."

The era of the Tin Mamba sounds like a bad Wizard of Oz sequel—and an even more regrettable final chapter of Bryant's illustrious career.

Yet a squeaky Bryant wasn't altogether dour despite how discouraging things appeared Tuesday. He has had a vision for his latter years, if he had t...

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